Scar Garden Press / 144 pages / (February 13, 2012)
Call it noir bizarre. Call it hard-boiled spec. However you think of it, it’s a kick in the frontal lobe, a sucker punch to the soul. And it just may be the most exciting movement in science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. If you’ve had the great good fortune to obtain a copy of GUN WITH OCCASIONAL MUSIC by Jonathan Lethem and read that masterpiece…well, you know exactly what I mean. If you’ve been hungering for more of its like since then, your pleas are answered: Atom by the extremely talented Steve Aylett is served.
Don’t get the wrong idea though; Atom is like nothing you’ve ever read. The very things that make it one-of-a-kind make it nothing short of spectacular. Aylett and Lethem are the kind of authors that cannot create a completely alien sphere that still smacks of the world around us. New vocabulary. New realities. New reality breaks. And, somehow, in the midst of all this alien environment, you feel perfectly comfortable. At least, as comfortable as it’s possible to be in such an edgy place.
Atom. Taffy Atom is probably his name. Fighting crime may be his game. Prestidigitation could be his game. To be honest, it’s hard to pin down precisely what it is he does — for a living, or at another time. Did I mention that one of his cronies is a killer fish? That, you will learn right off, is completely in keeping with Atom’s lifestyle. Um…As much as you can really grasp.
Does all this sound like readers are going to be futilely lost? Nah, a few minutes into Atom and the flow takes over, carrying us helplessly and hysterically along for the trip.. Who would even think about bowing-out on a no-brakes ride like this? Just trust in your host and stop worrying about the mechanism. Don’t look for the safety measures; throw your head back and shriek in laughter.
While all this is swirling around you, don’t forget to take in the brilliance of the language. With the singular John Sladek gone from us, Aylett is the only player left with that kind of power over and fascination with words. Every name, every phrase, every sentence is loaded with extra meaning and subtle jokes and wicked wordplay. One particular string of serial killings is a particular creepy delight.
If you — like me — having been pining away since Slaughtermatic the wait is over. Atom is here to give you a soothing…all right, not actually soothing…draught to tide you over until Aylett produces his next masterpiece. And don’t blame me or anyone but yourself if you get hopelessly hooked. Just keep your fingers crossed that the good stuff keeps coming.